Selected by L.M. Cole
When I was a kid, one of my special interests was Old Hollywood.
This was my parents’ fault for allowing me exposure to the genre.
To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my favorite movies as a 10-year old, and I’d seen movies like Some Like It Hot and Lawrence of Arabia before I hit middle school. Scout Finch’s ambling, overall-clad swagger... Marilyn Monroe in her illusion dresses, soft curves and welcoming breasts kissed by sequins... Peter O’Toole’s pale, skinny body laid bare, whipped and ogled by a roomful of tormentors — all of these were private awakenings.
The adults around me couldn’t be blamed for not recognizing them. But someone should have suspected that homosexual tendencies were afoot when I became obsessive over certain actors.
I knew enough even then to be embarrassed over Leslie Howard, but his effete blondness proved irresistible to a repressed Catholic kid. For the opposite reason, Katharine Hepburn became an eternal object of affection. I pored over promotional photos of her as a twink in Sylvia Scarlett, read over and over again about how she owned no skirts or dresses in her personal life and, as a child, dressed as a boy and answered only to the name of Jim. She made accessible the kind of gender envy Humphrey Bogart presented.
Don’t get me wrong, I was attracted to him. To this day, I maintain a habit of biting my fingers that I cultivated to mimic Martha Vickers, with whom he shared fleeting chemistry in The Big Sleep. Perhaps less disconcertingly, I couldn’t even stand to see him shirtless lest I be completely overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame.
But I also wanted to be him. And that meant smoking candy cigarettes and tracing my lips with a compulsively washed thumb like a failed audition for Breathless. It meant feeling a little bit more real as my saddle shoes hit the parking lot pavement during my solitary recess walks. It means bite marks on the fingers typing this.
Catherine Fields is a student at The Ohio State University. She loves writing, drawing, cooking, and her one-eyed dog Winkie. You can find her on Twitter @cfields1031.